Note: Are rawhides bad for dogs? Do your own research, of course. What I give my dog should not determine what you give yours.
I used to give my dog rawhides of all kinds – those white, knotted rawhides, rawhide chips and those little rawhide sticks.
Ace would chew them all, and he never had any issues.
Rawhides are processed animal skins (typically beef or pork, sometimes buffalo). Obviously they’re not “raw.”
A few years ago I started hearing from other dog owners that rawhides are bad for dogs.
The warnings I received just for mentioning the word rawhide were:
1. Dogs can’t digest rawhides “at all.”
2. Rawhides are made with chemicals.
3. Rawhides are a choking hazard.
4. They “will” cause an intestinal blockage.
So without doing my own research, I stopped buying rawhides for Ace.
To be honest, something even worse happened.
I stopped buying chews for my dog all together because I was afraid everything would harm him! It seems everything comes with a warning these days. Fear is a big marketing tool.
When I do buy chews for my dogs today, my list includes:
Obviously no chew or bone is 100 percent safe.
See our list of alternatives to rawhides here.
But are rawhides bad for dogs and puppies?
Since we recently got a second dog, I wanted to re-visit rawhides and make up my own mind. 2018 update: My senior dog Ace has passed away. I give my young dog certain rawhides on occasion.
I decided I’m comfortable adding the right types of rawhides to the mix for both my dogs in moderation.
Rawhides are not the greatest thing in the world, and there are slight risks to feeding rawhides as there are risks to giving any other type of chew or bone.
So let’s re-visit those “warnings” I mentioned and see if there’s any truth to them.
1. Dogs can’t digest rawhides. True or false?
Millions of dogs consume and digest rawhides with no issues. They eat small pieces at a time.
The potential problems occur when a dog swallows large chunks, “knots” or soft, unraveled strips of rawhide. In rare cases, dogs are unable to digest or pass these large chunks.
Safety tip: Choose rawhides that are large for your dog and take them away when they become soft or small enough to swallow.
2. Rawhides are made with chemicals. True or false?
True, some more than others.
There are a lot of articles out there on how rawhides are made. It’s not pretty.
Rawhides are a by-product of the leather industry, so you can only imagine the kinds of chemicals used for preserving and cleaning the hides as they are made and shipped in various areas of the world. Here’s a pretty fair article from the Whole Dog Journal on how rawhides are made.
You can also find rawhides that are made right here in the United States from start to finish and with fewer chemicals.
A brand I trust:
Safety tip: Don’t buy just any brand. Don’t trust labels that say “all natural” or “made in USA.” Instead, do a lot of research on how the exact product is made start to finish. Ask questions if you can’t find the information. Brands that care will be happy to answer your questions in details.
3. Rawhides are a choking hazard. True or false?
True, although rare.
Any type of chew or bone for dogs can be a choking hazard.
Rawhides have a bad rap because:
A. They get really “gummy” as they soften so it’s easy for a dog to swallow a long strip of rawhide.
B. Some dogs gulp or swallow the knotted ends or large chunks of rawhide. Ace does this!
C. Some people give their dogs rawhides that are too small to begin with.
Safety tips: Choose large rawhides. Avoid rawhides with knotted ends. Take the rawhide away once it gets soft and “gummy.” Take the rawhide away once it is small enough for your dog to swallow. Supervise.
4. Rawhides could cause an intestinal blockage. True or false?
True, although rare.
You will hear stories about dogs that needed surgery to remove a rawhide, but how many millions of dogs chew rawhides with no issues? For me, it’s about knowing your dog, supervising and taking the rawhide away before your dog has a chance to gulp large chunks.
Other types of bones and chews such as antlers or raw beef bones can also cause an intestinal blockage.
Additional concerns with rawhides:
1. A lot of dogs seem to have beef allergies and most rawhides are made with beef. If that’s the case, I recommend rawhide made from buffalo hide.
2. Some owners report rawhides give their dogs upset stomachs due to contamination. This is why it’s so important to research exactly where the rawhide is coming from.
No dog bone, toy or chew is 100 percent safe.
Every type of chew out there has likely caused a dog – sometime, somewhere – to choke, get sick or have an intestinal blockage or need emergency surgery.
If you have a favorite “go to” chew for your dog, it’s probably considered “dangerous” by some other dog owner somewhere.
- Antlers are very strong and some dogs could break their teeth over time.
- Raw beef bones can break or get lodged in a dog’s intestines.
- Cooked bones you can buy for dogs at pet stores or grocery stores can splinter and cause internal damage.
But dogs should chew SOMETHING!
- chewing keeps their jaws, teeth and gums healthy
- it’s something fun for them to do & a stress reliever
- if we don’t provide them chews, they’ll find something
If you decide to feed rawhides, here are my tips:
1. Know your dog.
All dogs are different, and you know your dog’s chewing style best.
2. Choose the brand wisely.
Research and ask questions! Know exactly how the rawhide was made from start to finish. Find out where the cattle were raised, what tanneries the hides were sent to and in what country.
Avoid products that were shipped to or from tanneries in China. Avoid the bleached white rawhides. Ask what chemicals were used for cleaning the hides. Finally, read the ingredients. If you can’t find these details, don’t buy the product.
3. Choose a larger size & supervise!
Throw the rawhide away once it’s small enough or soft enough to swallow.
So those are my thoughts. Let me know yours in the comments!
I plan to give my puppy and my adult dog an occasional rawhide in the future. I’m nervous about all types of chews, but rawhides are one of the options I’m more comfortable with. Like I said, not all rawhides are the same. It’s about finding the best option for your unique pup.
If you’ve fed your dogs rawhides for the last 30 years with no issues, there’s probably no reason to change. If rawhides make you nervous, there are plenty of other options available.
Do you give your dog rawhides? What else do you give your dog for chewing?
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